Journey into Bolivia's turbulent past in the shadow of Cerro Rico

Today, the relatively calm and humble streets of high altitude Potosí belie a glorious, hedonistic and controversial past, in which it rose from nowhere in the 16th century to become the largest and most richly decorated city in all of the Americas. The source of such sudden fortune was the discovery of silver deposits in what was to become known as Cerro Rico, the richest mine in history, but when the silver ran out, the city fell into an equally sharp decline. Nearly 500 years on, ornate colonial buildings, the towering presence of the Rich Mountain and the scars of the lives lost in the silver extraction all serve to keep alive the memory of the silver boom. To visit to Potosí is to visit a living museum to one of the most extraordinary periods of time in Latin American history.

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